Two brothers who died in a gun battle with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies Tuesday night apparently were trying to rob smugglers who had brought immigrants over the border, authorities said Wednesday.
Ramiro Orozco Serrano, 23, and his brother, Jesus, 20, both of Los Angeles, were shot to death by deputies near 17th Street and Grand Avenue shortly before 8:30 p.m., Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Erickson said. Both men had been the subject of a two-day surveillance by a team of narcotics investigators from Los Angeles County, he said.
But authorities now believe that rather than dealing drugs, the suspects were trying to rob smugglers who had just brought immigrants across the border. The immigrants were to pay the smugglers and then transfer to another vehicle to be taken to a safe house.
Erickson said that two carloads of people, including the suspects, had pulled into a parking lot of a gasoline station near 17th and Grand. A few hours later, a pickup truck arrived. One suspect got out of a car with a gun, and the deputies moved in.
"He had a gun and the deputies were under the impression that a drug rip-off or a (narcotics) deal was going down and they had to intervene," Erickson said.
Seven people, including a man and a woman suspected of being illegal immigrants, were turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Erickson said. An eighth person escaped.
John Brechtel, assistant director of the INS regional office in Los Angeles, said the safe house was near the scene of the shootout.